Sanyasi by the sea
Never do I feel the urge to give up this material world and take sanyas in the spiritual Himalayas more strongly than when I have to empty all cupboards and shelves in the house for painting or pest control or whatever.
I felt that way a couple of weeks ago when I finally got up the courage to have my house painted and let hordes of workmen in to do the job. (Workmen, as I told a friend bitterly later, are like an infestation of ants. Once they’re in, they NEVER leave.)
Lugging everything I believed I couldn’t live my life without off shelves and into suitcases and cartons, suddenly everything seemed like junk. Even my beloved books. If it hadn’t been for a tiny sliver of sense that remained as I grimly slammed cabinet doors open and slammed suitcase lids shut, I think I might just have called the kabadiwalla and ordered him to take everything away.
Later, after it was all done and I’d scrubbed the grime off myself, I didn’t feel any better. Instead I thought of the trauma of first getting the workmen out of my house and then putting all this stuff back in cupboards and on shelves and said out loud, this is it. It’s time to abandon all my material possessions and head for the hills.
And then I wondered – why hills? Really, why? Why should I be a sanyasi in the mountains? Why can’t I be a sanyasi by the sea instead?
And I laughed because really, I have changed. From the time I arrived in Bombay in 1993 to now, almost 20 years, I’ve gone from being a passionate mountain lover to a big time devotee of the sea. And back then, in 1993, I never thought that would happen.
Maybe it was just a lack of familiarity with the sea (I was a bad Calcuttan, I’ve never been to Puri ever), but I always thought that no other phenomenon of nature could awe me with its beauty the way mountains could. Like a good Calcuttan, I visited Darjeeling every year during the Pujas and every year I was stunned by the exquisiteness and majesty around me. When I visited my dad’s old school at North Point, Darjeeling, on his annual pilgrimage, I wondered how on earth anyone could concentrate on anything so mundane as studies and exams when out of the window, the Kangchenjunga loomed. And when I moved to Bombay, I knew I’d be leaving a lot that I loved behind – and one of those things was Darjeeling and the mountains.
Now… I’m not saying I don’t like mountains anymore, I do. I still think they’re stunning, they still take my breath away, but now… now I’m in love with the sea.
I love the way it murmurs and croons, the way it smells (the smell of salt in the air does something to the blood in my veins, I swear, I feel totally, completely alive), the way it dances lazily in the afternoon heat and the menace of its steel-grey heaves in the monsoon. I love the openness of horizons it gives me, stretching far, far, FAR in the distance, farther than the eye can see. I love the idea of its currents and channels and streams that can pick up something from here and deposit it thousands of miles away in a place that I may never even have heard of. I thrill in the knowledge that even the mountains were once in the sea – and there are more mountains that we don’t know of, in there. I love it that the sea is the last unexplored frontier on the face of this earth, but these last few reasons are intellectual. I just love the sea.
And when I finally take sanyas, that’s where you’ll find me. Not in the mountains, but by the sea.
(Though I think I’ll take my books with me.)